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Kings, Lords and Men in Scotland and Britain, 1300–1625Essays in Honour of Jenny Wormald$
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Steve Boardman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748691500

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748691500.001.0001

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Murder Will Out: Kingship, Kinship and Killing in Medieval Scotland

Murder Will Out: Kingship, Kinship and Killing in Medieval Scotland

Chapter:
(p.193) Chapter 9 Murder Will Out: Kingship, Kinship and Killing in Medieval Scotland
Source:
Kings, Lords and Men in Scotland and Britain, 1300–1625
Author(s):

Alexander Grant

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748691500.003.0010

This chapter places Scottish bloodfeud in the context of recent studies of elite violence in late medieval Germany, France and England. It then provides a detailed analysis of royal pardoning in medieval Scotland. Finally, it examines the question of murder – the ‘bootless’ (unforgivable) crime. In early medieval Europe, ‘murder’ meant secret killing. Eventually this changed to the modern meaning of deliberate, ‘forethought’ killing – but such a change did not happen in Scotland before the sixteenth century. ‘Forethought’ killing was often pardoned, but ‘murder’ was not. Secret murder was more heinous than open killing, because, if the perpetrator was unknown, the victim’s kin was unable to claim compensation or seek vengeance. The crown was the only power that could deal with it. This was surely a vital factor behind the growth of royal power in the earlier Middle Ages – not only in Scotland, but throughout Western Europe.

Keywords:   crime, murder, vengeance, compensation, justice

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